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Climate change and human health

July 2019: A large-scale first of its kind study outlines cross-European risks and connections between climate change and public health risks, promoting an increased policy focus on health risks and challenges of accessing health care facilities at the European level.

Information

The European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) released a new landmark report investigating the consequences of climate change for human health in Europe. The report analyses 300 peer-reviewed studies and demonstrates how climate change is adversely affecting human health, contributing to the burden of disease and premature mortality. The researchers outline that at least 350,000 annual excess deaths are caused by air pollution from burning fossil fuels with a total of about 500,000 deaths from all human-related activities. The report is the first of its kind providing large scale and cross-European connections between climate change and public health outcomes, cautioning against a projected increase of deaths from heatwaves, extreme events such as floods and droughts, air pollution, allergens, weakening food and nutrition security, increased incidence and changing distribution of some infectious diseases including mosquito-borne, food-borne and water-borne diseases, and risks of forced migration. 

Implications & Opportunities

In light of increasing risks for public health outcomes, the researchers propose to amplify efforts to stabilise the climate and decarbonise the economy. They also highlight the importance of combatting misinformation about climate change, and to include the protection of health as key concern for climate mitigation policies at EU level. In particular, the researchers promote efforts to reduce air pollution, transition to plant-based diets, increase the visibility of health benefits of action on climate change, engage the public, and strengthen communicable disease surveillance and response systems.

Limitations

The report addresses climate change and human health at meta-levels and shows only limited applicability at the national-level; hence the key recommendations require careful adaptation and prioritisation to address challenges of health systems at the national level.


Sources

European Academies Science Advisory Council. (2019). The imperative of climate action to protect human health in Europe. Halle: EASA. Available at https://easac.eu/publications/details/the-imperative-of-climate-action-to-protect-human-health-in-europe/

The Times. (2019). Fossil fuel ban would save 30,000 lives a year in UK. Retrieved from https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/fossil-fuel-ban-would-save-30-000-lives-a-year-in-uk-9hgx39c7q

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Adele Wiliams

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The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.